Japan PM looking at “option” of gaining capability to attack enemy bases after latest N. Korea missile launch

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Prime Minister Fumio Kishida speaks to reporters about North Korea’s missile launch at his office on Tuesday.

In response to North Korea’s latest missile launch, the National Security Council (NSC) on Tuesday confirmed that it would consider measures to strengthen national defense that include having the capability to attack enemy bases based on the right of self-defense.

The government is becoming increasingly concerned about North Korea’s improved missile technology as Pyongyang continues to launch missiles with irregular trajectories that are difficult to intercept. If its submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) become deployable, it will pose a serious threat to Japan, the United States and other allies.

“We confirmed that we will consider all options, including having the capability to attack enemy bases. We will work to drastically strengthen our defense capabilities,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters after the meeting at the office of the NSC, in which he met with the defense and foreign ministers and the chief cabinet secretary.

Such capabilities would enable attacks on enemy military facilities such as missile launch sites, with the aim of deterring an enemy from launching missiles.

In 2020, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, faced with the difficulty of intercepting a missile on an irregular trajectory using current technology and equipment, began considering gaining the capability to attack enemy bases, but the idea was shelved by the Cabinet of his successor, Yoshihide Suga.

If North Korea becomes able to deploy SLBMs along with high-performance submarines, it will be difficult to detect launches in advance and intercept missiles. That would make it possible for North Korea to conduct surprise attacks on Japan and the United States from nearby waters.

This is significant in that it also gives Pyongyang the ability to strike back from the sea if its land-based missiles are destroyed. If the latest missiles were confirmed to be SLBMs, it will mark their first launch by North Korea since October 2019. The Defense Ministry said that if the missile’s trajectory is irregular, it is likely a new type.

North Korea had a successful underwater launch of a missile in 2015, and has since continued test launches of its Pukguksong SLBMs. At its military development exhibition that started Oct. 11, North Korea unveiled a “mini SLBM” similar to the Russian short-range ballistic missile Iskander, which flies on an irregular trajectory.

North Korea has been repeatedly launching missiles since mid-September. It is believed the latest launch of what appears to be SLBMs is aimed at increasing the level of provocation against the United States, and making it a bargaining chip in bilateral talks with the United States over nuclear development and other issues.

However, the Japanese government believes the antisubmarine defenses of Japan and the United States are sufficient to cope with the situation, with a senior Self-Defense Forces official saying, “It is easy to detect navigation sounds of North Korean submarines and their cruising ranges are short.” The government will continue to improve its ability to deal with submarines.